Archive for February, 2009

Running Through Fire

February 27, 2009

Today as I was getting ready to join the daily throng, I bent over to pick up a dirty sock and ended up tumbled on the floor, back in excruciating spasm.  (Note to self: never tell my kids this story as it is already hard enough to get them to pick up their socks.)  I was alone in a hotel room so there was no one to call for help.  It was 15- 20 minutes before I was able to roll over on my stomach and start inching my way (by simultaneously pushing with my arms and pulling with my toes – I couldn’t do anything that caused any kind of twisting force in my spine) towards my bed and hence my cell phone.  When I finally reached it, I didn’t call anyone but it was just such a relief to know that I could.

And the whole time, when I wasn’t shuddering with pain, I was thinking to myself about how stupid those movies are where the hero gets hit in the back with a 2×4, or kicked in the spine, and then valiantly overcome the pain and end up tackling the bad guys and, well, whatever.  I’m here to tell you that when you are in incredible pain you can’t do anything.  It’s always been a pet peeve just how much movies and TV underestimate bodyy trauma just for dramatic effect.  For instance:

  • You can’t outrun an explosion.  Any scene in which the hero outruns the explosion and dives over the wall just in time is a crock.  Explosions travel at speeds closer to that of a bullet than to that of a running guy, no matter how telegenic he is.
  • You can’t run through a fire.  Fires heat the air to over a thousand degrees.  Your clothes would burst into flames, heck,  the fat in your skin would too.  One breath and your lungs would be crispy so you would die of suffocation.
  • If you get shot with a modern high powered pistol it doesn’t just drill a hole through the muscle.  It turns the surrounding tissue to pulp and the shockwaves can break bones, and the bones can also transmit shock to other parts of the part where it does such severe damage that you may never recover.  You will certainly not be able to pull yourself up with the wounded arm or punch the bad guy.
  • If you get a severe beating, a kick and punch fest, it will likely be days before you can get out of bed.  There’s a good chance you’ll end up with permanent damage such as a limp or constant pain, or mental retardation.  You will not be at the bar an hour later with a tiny band aid on your nose.
  • Oh, and the first shot fired by a sniper is the one that kills.  They had plenty of time to set up and chose the whole ideal spot.  Scenes where the first shot ricochets qand the second hits someone are  a crock.

Introducing Flavium

February 27, 2009

I’d like to introduce Flavium, who will be joining Remus and me on this blog.  Flavium should bring a younger perspective, and help us add some more non-political missives to the mix (although, of course, he is free to post on anything).

The Pleasures of Not Reading George Will

February 26, 2009

In Remus’ posting below, he’s fairly apoplectic over the Washington Post’s backing of George Will’s specious column on global warming.*  I’ve only tangentially followed the story, as I haven’t read George Will in over twenty years.  Ol’ George has this reputation as being the thinking man’s conservative, but that’s only because he’s very intelligent and articulate.  He is not, nor ever has been, thoughtful.  (Except about baseball.  I have to admit back when I got a daily paper I would check to see if his column was about baseball before I ignored it.)  What he is, is an intelligent and well articulated hack.  He is Truthy.  He purveys BS in the Frankfurt sense – words and facts marshalled to defend a pre-existing position with complete indifference to their truth, accuracy or relevancy.

Normally I ignore Will and most blog posts about him.  The reason this one bubbled to my consciousness is the fact that the Post backed him.  Remus hit the nail right on the head here, because that is just another downward step in the Posts jouney to become the equivalent of a well articulated tabloid (the whole paper as George Will, as it were).  Although their investigative reporting is still excellent, their opinion pages are full of conventional tripe.  And their slant is often to decieve by omission, frequently reporting without comment on things that have been shown false, as if the accuracy of a fact is of little importance to a newspaper.  And their “ombudsman position” was and is a joke, little more than an apoligist for the editors.

Since I only read to keep myself informed and not to “keep current”, I don’t feel any obligation to read Will, or Drudge, or Daily Kos or Politico, Huffington Post or any one of the other sites I see mentioned as “must reads” or “agenda setters”.

And truth be told,  I can’t think of any higher pleasure than starting out my day by not reading George Will.

*The column did the Op Ed equivalent of the old Movie promoters trick of taking a few selected words from a review such as “This movie is at the best, a piece of sh*t” andturning it into “This movie is… the best”.  The post “verified” that the phrases he (or more likely, other members of the right wing crazy machine) cherry picked were actually present in the article and then put the full faith and treasure of the Post behind him.

Which is it WaPo?

February 23, 2009

In today’s Post there is a fear-mongering article about ecomigration: people migrating because of climate change. How dare the Post print such crap. Obviously George Will has debunked Climate Change and who would know better than a beltway pundit. He is an EXPERT. He even wrote a book on BASEBALL! He completely refuted the climate scientists’ arguments (although he did have to completely misquote their arguments but that’s ok because he is a writer and he gets what’s called poetic license which means he’s allowed to just make shit up). So which is it Post? Coming apocalypse or time to forget it all and take in a double-header?


Catholicism, Mormanism, Scientology

February 12, 2009

I was raised a Catholic, twelve years in Catholic schools and am therefore fairly comfortable around Catholic doctrine and beliefs, although I don’t have any sense of faith whatsoever today.  Certain other religions seemed much more, well, ridiculous to me.  Mormonism and the whole copper plates and the archangel Moroni and the voice of God telling Joseph Smith to bed a bunch of 14 year olds girls.  Christian Science and the whole history of Mary Baker Eddy.  Scientology and the nuclear bombs and engrams and especially L. Ron Hubbard.  But at least part of me felt that the reason I was comfortable with Catholic teachings was familiarity.  But I now know that isn’t true. Because the current Pope has just hatched a new doctrine (or actually rehatched an old one) that is just as ridiculous as anything out there in God-land.  I don’t think I will ever be able to take Catholic doctrines seriously again.  You see, the Pope has bought back indulgences.  You remember those, Martin Luther got his shorts in a twist over the Church’s practice of claiming they could get you out of purgatory if you gave money to, what, the Church of course.  That’s an indulgence. And then in the 1600’s they banned the practice of pay-for-play, although they didn’t really because one of the ways to get these indulgences was to, wink-wink, nudge-nudge, engage in charitable acts.  And have we got the Charity for you!  Finally, with Vatican II, the whole thing was done away with, and not a moment too soon, because by 1960 people in western countries were educated and for the most part could spot a crock of sh*t when they saw it.  But ol’ Benedict, he is bringing it back. He can get you a get-out-of-jail free card.  You can’t do this yourself of course. It comes from the Pope. And one of the preconditions is that you have to say a prayer for the Pope.  Like every cheesy governor who erects billboards with their picture saying welcome to New York, Bendedict want’s to make sure you know where this DELUXE benfit is comeing from.

Eating Crow

February 12, 2009

Well, it looks like Specter came through after all.  I am really surprised, and to tell the truth, not really sure what to make of it.  It’s hard to believe that he’s developed a spine after all these years.

Specter of Hope?

February 5, 2009

Elana Schor over at TPM has a post about Republican Senators who might possibly work with the Administration.  One of the names that she puts out is Arlen Specter.  Administration supporters would be ill-advised in putting more than a thimble-full of hope there.  After years of following Specter, I have yet to see him follow through on any of his tough talk,  bi-partisan talk, or for that matter, even the basic commonsense talk he spouts from time to time.  In the end, he always voted with his party, and for the Bush administration. The only reason one could imagine him supporting the Obama administration would be a wildly hopeful interpretation that it wasn’t cravenness that caused him to side with Bush, but an overarching deferral to the President.  But let’s be serious.  If Specter was the type of person who would stand up against his party, he wouldn’t be a GOP senator today.  Ever since Reagan anyone who wasn’t absolutely loyal was attacked from within by the Club for Growth, or the Limbaughs, or for that matter, the Senate GOP movers and shakers. It is an unfortunate reality that anyone who survived that would not cross the power structure.  For all his talk, when he had to take a stand, Specter did as he was told.

Religion vs. Evolution

February 4, 2009

There are many things in life that we take for granted, until suddenly, your perspective is shifted and you realize what seemed normal is, in fact, odd.  Women carrying around tubes of colored goo to paint their lips.  The idea that people have two names and they must be given in a precise order (first name, last name).  The idea that ‘religious’ people don’t believe in evolution.

This is the anniversary of “The Origin of Species” so Darwin and evolution is in the news quite a bit, and inevitably the anti-evolutionists come up.  But as I was listening to a science writer talk about the latest onslaught from the fundamentalists, it suddenly struck me as a very odd thing that religious people even have an opinion on evolution.  Do they have an opinion on gravity?  On the direction that electrons flow when the light switch is turned on?  Or for whether that light travels at 186,000 miles per second?  Surely the vast majority are content to ignore these facts, or, if they think of them at all, take them in as an example of the wonder of God’s handiwork.  They are content to let the people who really do care about such things study and parametize them.  They accept that, in the main, the scientists and engineers get such things right. Why then, do they go after evolution?

Perhaps there is no reason at all.  Just like any other fad, it is impossible to tell why this one particular thing caught their fancy.  But once it did, it became part of the litmus test for seeing who was ‘in the club’.

Response to Obama in Europe and Africa

February 3, 2009

I’ve been living in the Netherlands for the last year and a half and traveling quite a bit, including to Egypt and Tanzania. The response here to Obama has been overwhelmingly positive. People asked about Obama all the time and whether I supported him. I was not surprised when I saw Obama blankets, pictures, books, paintings, and such in both Egypt and Tanzania but I was surprised at the pure joy when people talked about Obama. Much of this is probably due to his being of African descent and also having lived in a Muslim country but after talking with people for awhile I realized it went much deeper. The idea of being treated with respect had a big impact. Also the idea of using diplomacy rather than war has great appeal. It went deeper still though. Obama’s appeal to higher ideals, to helping each other, to making the world a better place, and yes, his infusion of hope, these seemed to be the real drivers of Obama fever.
Here in the Netherlands people were almost as excited. The Dutch tend to be well-educated, well-read and very aware of international events. They tend to be generous to charities and great believers in human rights. They have been fighting and dying with us in Afghanistan. In fact, the Dutch are leading the NATO effort there currently. Comments by the Bush administration and Congressional Republicans deriding the European efforts in Afghanistan have not gone over well. Obama’s victory was widely praised and celebrated here. From local shop owners to national politicians, he was almost universally heralded.
All this praise won’t solve the difficult problems we face but a constructive, collaborative approach will get us off to a good start. I don’t expect any cries of ‘Freedom Fries’ or ‘You’re with us or against us’ from this president.

Losing your vote

February 1, 2009

One thing I haven’t seen discussed is the effect the House Republican’s intransigence is having on the states they represent.  It seems that the Boehner’s strategy in the House is to simply oppose everything. Nate Silver over at 538 says the following:

Boehner’s Boys have been equally uncooperative on other matters. Case in point: a bill yesterday to delay the transition to digital TV. This measure was approved unanimously by the Senate; every Senate Republican gave it the green light. But 155 out of 178 House Republicans voted against it…

But since the Republicans are in the minority, their opinions can be, no, must be, ignored.  They end up having no input into any bill.  Voters who elected a Republican to the House have effectively lost their Representative.  That is going to have real consequences.